American Nudist: Living Nude in the California Desert
By Max Hartshorne
Experiencing nude recreation in Southern California
The desert winds are blowing hard in early May at De Anza Springs, in Jacumba, California, inland and just three miles shy of the Mexican border.
The 600-acre property borders a 100,000-acre state park, and is surrounded by volcanic mountains and miles and miles of view. I packed light since it is a clothing optional resort. I needed to find out what nude living is like. Over the next five days, I met people who are devoted to nudist living from all over the west.
I put what I brought with me in the hotel room bureau…it did not include more than some socks and toiletries. And a fleece jacket. And shoes…three pairs. Plus three big bottles of sunscreen.
Without anything but my coat and Tevas, I walked out. This was my first half-assed attempt at being a nudist. There was just a little sun, but it was tempered by the persistent chilly winds.
I walked the desolate compound, not really ready yet for the Memorial Day holiday, in the distance huge volcanic boulders piled on each other. The road circled up with many parked RVs. The parcels where each RVer had made the space their own were neatly decorated. One sign read “Bobby and Linda’s Bare Buns Getaway” and another “Clara’s Place.”
At one a giant 18-wheeler cab was parked. But no one, clothed or other, was around. I met the owner of the truck cab later that night at a poker game where the players wore bathrobes. He and his wife were going to be buying a trailer and living as nudist nomads when they retire in a few months.
Sampling the Life
Saturday dawned clear and sunny, and the wind finally let up. The warm weather gave me a chance to sample the naked life, and I didn’t put on anything for the next two days. It is incredibly liberating, and in a funny way it is an experience like no other.
It is almost like going back to a simpler time, a time so long ago, when you didn’t have clothes, and you played around in the nude. Not having pockets, a cell phone or my keys was a pleasant change, it made life seem simpler and less tied down to my material world.
Dave Landman, who owns De Anza Springs with his wife, Helen, has the chiseled good looks and easy smile of somebody who used to be in the movies. He told me that if I hear a knock on the hotel room door, don’t answer it, it is probably a Mexican looking for water, on his way over the border.
The fence that separates the two countries isn’t even tall enough to stop anyone. It has a gap about three feet high at the bottom. But there are many sensors and other electronic devices, so it wouldn’t take long to draw the attention of the BP
Busy Border Patrol
On the ride over from San Diego Airport, Kim, owner Dave Landman’s daughter, talked to me about life so
near the border. “You always see border patrol picking up people and about three times a week we get Mexicans coming and trying to get into the resort. Some times they even try to blend in by taking off their clothes.” But they are easy to spot so this gambit hasn’t worked yet.
The town of Jacumba is the classic ‘blink and you’ll miss it,’ kind of burg, just a couple of shops and a dirt strip airport. The resort is set on 600 acres, with indoor and outdoor pools and a hot tub where most people congregate. There are lots of activities, and just about everyone takes part. About 100 of the people here live full time at the resort in their motorhomes and RVs, and another 75-100 come out most weekends.
44,000 Strong—and Growing
There are more than 44,000 dues-paying members of the American Association for Nude Recreation, (AANR), the lobbying group based in Kissimmee Florida. Thousands more enjoy nudity at home or skinnydipping at a local nude swimming hole. But the people who vacation every weekend at De Anza and at the more than 100 other naturist clubs across the U.S. regard taking it all off much more seriously.
One woman at the resort said that the first thing she does when she gets home from work is take off her bra. Nudists keep on going and prefer to get naked as soon as they shut the door to the outside world.
We drove to the nearby Golden Acorn casino for dinner, on a windy bluff right off the Interstate. A Mariachi band, eight strong, played trumpets and guitars noisily in the background. The staff was all dressed in Cinco de Mayo outfits, one manager wore a cartoonishly large sombrero. Everyone recognized Dave and Helen, local business owners who employ almost as many people as the casino. Neighbors are friendly and after seven years, nobody here much cares about the naked people down in the hollow.
I asked Dave about that highway up on the bluff, can those drivers look down and see the naked folks here? He said he had the highway department do a study and the answer was no, the cars you can see clearly up there can’t make anything out way down here.
Defense of Nudity
Dave has strong feelings in defense of nudity. He said he'd much rather leave his kids with nudists than with a YMCA or church camp. Others echo Dave’s belief that nudists are among the most trustworthy and God-fearing people you could ever meet. They suffer a stereotype only because
Americans equate nudity with sex, and that simply is not the case. Sex with strangers isn’t a part of nudist resorts, though of course, you can find this at other “alternative adult’ resorts that are a universe away from a place like De Anza Springs.
”COG’s” Not Allowed
The staff at De Anza has been trained to spot the signs of molesters and "creepy old guys," or COGS, and if someone is identified as such by a young person or anyone else, the hook is quick. Like a bad Vaudeville performer, the gig is up, they are yanked out. And they never complain or make a fuss.
“We ask them to leave,” said Dave. Still, he's only had to do this about six times since he opened the resort seven years ago. "If someone is looking a little too long, or leering, or making another person uncomfortable, then we step in," he said. "The staff has been trained by people who know about the tendencies, people who study child molester behavior have provided clues, tip offs... these types don't last more than 15 minutes here. We know what to do and we act."
Another thing that’s banned at the club is cell phones with cameras. But of course, since out here in the desert there is no cell service, “anybody with a cell phone, that phone ends up in the bottom of the pool,” said Dave. Read more
Max Hartshorne has been the editor and publisher of GoNOMAD Travel in South Deerfield Mass since 2002. He worked for newspapers and other sales positions for 23 years until he finally got what he wanted, and became the editor at GoNOMAD. He travels regularly, enjoys publishing new writers, and watching his grandchildren grow up.